Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror in India

Speaking of things that could get interesting. A terrorist organization from Pakistan has spent the last several days killing people in India. Both countries have nukes and both hate each other. Maybe we need to bring back the Brits.

Are we downwind from Pakistan?

Just What We Need

A new genetic test that will allow parents to "steer" their children into their proper athletic field.

Just what the world needs: more Dennis Rodman's.

...Or Maybe Not

Maybe getting together with family for Christmas isn't such a great idea after all....

The Big Day

Yesterday was The Big Day at the cafe. We had DJ's in the parking lot and free cinnamon rolls and free coffee if you said "Willy sent me." (Willy is the name of the giant rooster mascot). Obviously, we were busy, but not as busy as I would have expected. I didn't hear what our sales figure was for the day, but from the orders coming in it looked like people did more than just pick up the free stuff. Next week when everything goes back to normal (meaning slow) will certainly be interesting. And I'm sure that the other coffee places, like the bakery I used to work at, enjoyed having the radio DJ's repeating endlessly for four hours that the cafe has the best coffee in Prescott. I'm sure there won't be any blow-back from that in a small town.

I've been really sick the last few days, which made working yesterday even more fun. When I got home, my temp was over 100 degrees, which isn't bad for me (102 and even 104 is not uncommon), but it made being on my feet in a hot restaurant somewhat interesting. I assume from the other symptoms it's pneumonia, although I haven't had that since leaving Michigan. I have an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday, so I'll know for sure what's up then. I'm sure some magic pills will take care of everything. Better living through chemistry.

Black Friday seemed to have been good for retailers, if you ignore that they were basically losing money on every item they sold. But I'm sure they will make it up on volume. And you have to factor in the cost of repairing their stores and paying off lawsuits. At least all the kiddies will have plenty of useless crap to unwrap on December 25th.

And now that we are officially in the "holiday season," I'll do my annual Scrooge bit. Every year, Christmas seems more pointless and stupid. Sure it's a good excuse to get together with family to eat and drink too much. That part I have no problem with, even though we won't be this year. But the whole gift thing just annoys me to no end, especially when it involves people I barely know. Family and friends are no problem, but co-workers and bosses and casual aquantances and the mailman and classmates and teachers and the guy that sweeps the sidewalk in front of Salvation Army and the old dude I nod and "huh" to when I pass him on the way to work and... Why? What possible meaning can be behind a gift to someone I barely know? What could I buy them that wouldn't just end up in the next garage sale? People at the cafe, some of whom can't even afford a place to live, want to do a secret Santa thing. But it will be so "fun," sort of like sticking a fork in my eye is fun. And don't even get me started on those buy-video-games-for-poor-people lists that now seem ubiquitous in the work place. Please explain what criteria allows someone to be defined as "poor" while having an Xbox/PlayStation/Wii in the first place, then expecting me to buy them new games for it? I don't even have an Xbox/PlayStation/Wii (although Rock Band may yet convince me to pick up a Wii).

OK, now that I've lost my five regular readers, I'll shut up.

"They're Savages"

Obviously the economy isn't as bad as everyone thinks if 2,000 people can trample some temp employee to death trying to buy electronics. It's not like this was a rush for food.

Savages indeed.

This happens every year, although this is the first death that I recall. Why do stores do this? Is it really worth replacing your front doors, losing God-knows how much merchandise to breakage as mad hoards run through your store, and now paying a wrongful-death lawsuit?

Or maybe it's just another cost of doing business the Sam Walton way.

[Update: More information here including this little gem: "Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said."]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Locked out

Well, we had an interesting Thanksgiving. We started good with doing laundry to get it out of our hair early. The big problem was when we both went down to get things out of the dryer -- somehow -- our door locked behind us! We stood there laughing and blaming each other for locking the door --- neither of us can remember pushing in the button. I was in my shorts and Ric in his sweats with just socks on.....we looked like something the cat dragged in. Oh well --- I sweet talked Ric into going to knock on some apt doors to find anybody at home. On the third try, we found somebody and he had our landlord's cell phone number. He called for us and luckily they were just leaving there place to go someplace for dinner. He was at the complex in about 10 minutes. Talk about embarrassing!

Of course, I told Ric we should blame our landlord for our problem. If he would get the lock fixed on the laundry room, we would ALWAYS have our keys when going down to the laundry room. When Jim came over -- we didn't mention it though. :-)

I did buy a spiral cut ham and some potatoes to cook for dinner. (We didn't have any frozen pizzas in the freezer!) We figured out how long the ham would be and got that in okay. Then I went to look up some slow cooker recipes for potatoes. I found one that sounded pretty good that had sour cream and cheddar cheese soup in them. By the time we got the potatoes cleaned and quartered and going and read the recipe about how long they would take......they ended up being done about 2 hrs after the ham.

Today at work was pretty slow for travel and the auto travel/trip tik people. I had two whole phone calls before 130pm! And I was the only travel agent until 1p. I asked to leave early and permission was granted. Hopefully next week starts picking back up again. I know I have pushed alot of call backs until after, at least I will have some follow up calls to do to try to drum up some business.

Take care and I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and will have a great weekend. Go out and buy something today to help with "black Friday". Traffic was pretty steady around our mall and the Prescott Gateway mall at lunch time --- so somebody is out to at least window shop.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holding Our Breath

The world watches America to see if we run out and rack up a ton of new debt on Friday. Meanwhile, the markets all dither around without any real direction. At least the DOW edged over 8,000 (which is about where it should be anyway).

The cafe is also dithering around with sorta busy days and slow days and days we all lay outside in the sun and take naps. Which is pretty much what every business in Prescott is doing right now. Everyone continues to hang by their fingernails hoping Christmas will bail them out. What has been funny watching at the cafe is the owner-vs.-manager dynamic. The owner knows nothing about restaurants, so he did the smart thing and hired someone who did to run the cafe. I wondered when I hired in how long that would last. The answer: About two months. We still have the manager (for now) but the owner is interfering more every day. What that tells me is that he is running out of cash already. The panic is obvious. Everything hangs on us being busier than we have ever been on Friday and Saturday. There has been a media blitz on radio, articles in the papers, even spots on local TV (not paid advertising; just local access channel stuff). Saturday, a local radio station will have DJ's at the cafe doing a remote and giving away stuff.

I'm sure we will be busier than normal on Friday just because people will be out and about, even though I believe that Black Friday is going to be a bust compared to previous years. That doesn't mean that it won't still be a good day to stay away from the mall, just that people will be spending a lot less than in recent years. I'm sure we will be mobbed on Saturday just because people hear the word "free." What I doubt is that come Monday, there will be any real sustained difference in the level of business. Then the real fun starts.

Sunday we saw Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanco. The arena is pretty small and was less than half full. I don't know if that was because it was the last day of a three-day engagement, or if all the shows were as poorly attended. But it was fun and if you have ever seen a Cirque du Soleil production, all the standard things were there. Being a traveling show means that some things were slightly less dramatic or smaller scale than at the permanent ones, but it was still worth going to. And the Hanz and Franz guys made my shoulders ache. Like always.

We are thinking of a quick trip to Vegas sometime in late December or January to see Cirque du Soleil's Ka at the MGM. The cafe is supposed to be closed between Christmas and New Year, so Christmas weekend is one possibility. All the Cirque shows are dark in the middle of January and my college classes start up towards the end of January, so that leaves the first week of January if pricing for hotels and such are too high over Christmas.

Blogger just went down. Nice.

Anyway, I found out yesterday that the cafe will be closed on Thanksgiving. They were originally going to be open until noon, but decided to close sometime in the last few days. As usual, I found out about it during a casual conversation with a co-worker. God forbid the manager say anything or post a notice or even put the schedule where people can find it.

And Blogger is back. Sweet.

Our plans for Thanksgiving will likely revolve around a stack of books and frozen pizzas. And movies, of course. Lots of movies. Debbie works Friday and I work Friday and Saturday, so no sense in making any elaborate plans. We both need a day to recover from sinus/resperatory problems anyway with seasonal colds and a fire somewhere nearby blanketing Prescott with wood smoke. It's probably a prescribed burn out in the national forest, but a storm front moving through is holding all the smoke right at ground level. Everything smells like burning pine needles.

OK, I've used up enough electrons for one day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not Listening

Once again, we don't listen to the truly smart people:

Instead we listen to a game show host. My question is now that all these CNN and Fox commentators have been shown to be irredeemably stupid, why do they still have jobs? Why is anyone still listening to anything they have to say? At a minimum, where are the apologies for the unacceptably rude behavior? I know Fox isn't exactly a brain trust, but the absolutely juvenile behavior should have some consequences.

People wonder why the only news show I watch is John Stewart's Daily Show.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speaking Truth

Every time I catch myself complaining about a YouTube video not instantly loading, I recall my first computer. I still complain, but I feel bad about it for a couple seconds.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Losing "their" money

I've been home from work sick since Wed (bad cold). I figured it has been pretty slow and no sense of me being at work with my coughing and blowing my nose every few minutes. I found out today (by email) that if I am off sick 3 or more days, I need a note from a doctor to return to work. Huh? At first, I replied back that I could come in later in the afternoon so I wouldn't need the note. Then I decided I needed to renew one of my RX that I have been out of and might as well as kill two birds with one stone. The doctor's office couldn't get me in today --- first Dr appt was Monday at 230p. I told them that wouldn't work too well, so I have an appt with the PA at 830a. So, I emailed my boss back and said never mind replying to my first email ---- I had a Dr's appt Monday and would be in late!

Anyways --- today I was playing around checking out things on the computer. One was my 401K from AAA. They are matching part of what I put in --- and basically so far this year --- I've lost all "their" money! I have to decide for next year to keep having money taken out and hope things turn around or to take the money in my check and put it in our money market or a CD and earn some money.

I also looked into my medflex acct (pre-tax dollars for medical spending) and it looks out of whack. I guess I will have to print out the history and figure out where they are getting one of the numbers.

The bright thing I looked into today was my Stampin' Up figures. I am set for this quarter for sales. (Thanks to a couple girls and myself at work) Now I will need help beginning in Jan to continue this. Anybody out there need to buy anything for yourself or a relative or friend?????

The other good news is I am almost done with making my Christmas cards (thanks to Stampin' Up things). I have a few to finish up with color or .... once I get back things I loaned out to the gals at work after our last card making party. (So, be watching your mail in December for a hand made card from us. I made a 100!)

Sunday we are going to see a Cirque du Soleil production in Prescott Valley for Ric's birthday. (Yep, we are the same age for just under 2 months) It will be interesting to see how good it is compared to the others I've seen in Vegas and Disney World. I"m sure one of us will be blogging about that after we see it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My birthday gift from my employer was a 50% reduction in hours. Happy birthday to me. Of course by the end of my new, shorter shift, the cafe manager was already back-pedaling when he figured out that if we weren't there, he would be doing a lot more scut work. So now I have some of the hours back that I lost just 24 hours ago. Next week, there is supposed to be a big ad blitz that is going to pack the place to the rafters and all will be well.


Meanwhile, in the real world, consumer prices fell more last month than any time since the invention of the consumer price index. A lot of that was the sharp decline in gas prices, but even factoring that out, prices still dropped.

Probably has something to do with people being forced to live on what they make.

Oil prices continue to drop as people stop burning gas. I've talked to a couple people over the last week and it seems that many people have made permanent, structural changes to their lives and have no intention of jumping back into the SUV and driving all over the country just because gas prices have pulled back. We made a decision two years ago to become a one-car household and have no plans to run out and buy a second car. Even though my job is once-again turning to crap, we are still ahead of the game by sticking to one vehicle that goes about 5 miles a day instead of two cars that cover over 100 miles a day combined. I've said for years that our national focus should be to make the damn Arabs drink their oil.

More bad news for the Big 3 auto companies: It looks like there is a great deal of resistance to making taxpayers pay for 10,000 guys to sit in a room and do crossword puzzles every day while the assembly lines continue to churn out over-priced crapmobiles that no one in their right mind would buy.

And unless you are in the south or west, don't plan on making money building houses. I'm not sure where in the west all this construction is going on, but it ain't around here. Lots of empty buildings all over town.

And the DOW closed below 8,000.

Enough bad news for one day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Climate. Yet Again

A good summary of why the whole man-made global warming thing is a crock.

It's over an hour long, but take the time to watch it all the way through.

[Update: When you're done with the video, read this. We've put the fate of the West in the hands of a complete moron.]

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Remember the name David Bookbinder, the chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club. Remember him when you are sitting in the dark freezing to death. Remember him as you watch China, unhampered by David Bookbinder and his organization, catch up and surpass us on every front. No technology, green or otherwise, can replace coal in the short term. Nukes could replace some of it in the medium term if someone were in possession of a magic wand that would eliminate the political and regulatory blocks. Wind? Solar? Feh. Double Feh.

In more positive news, GM may not survive to the end of the year without federal tax money. Unless they don't get it, in which case I'm willing to bet they find a way to hang tough. But somehow I doubt any scenario is going to be pleasant for anyone working for GM or any of its suppliers.

And the Santa Clause bounce has yet to materialize. The biggest shopping day of the year is a couple weeks away. We'll see how that goes. We are mostly opting out of Christmas this year. For one thing, we don't buy stuff for each other and it's too much hassle to get gifts across the country in one piece. For another, both of our jobs are looking more tenuous by the day. The cafe had a busy day today, but the rest of the week was a disaster. And most of the work Debbie has had over the last couple weeks is canceling cruise bookings. I passed a moving truck clearing out yet-another retail space while walking home from work today. The mall where Debbie works is losing its three largest tenants and numerous small ones.

And it ain't over.

The good news is that if I do lose my job, I'll be able to get done with college sooner. I had hoped to finish up at the end of the Spring '09 term, but trying to squeeze in six classes in five months and working (almost) full-time just isn't going to work. That means stretching things out until at least the end of 2009, maybe longer. But if I'm not working, it would be a cake-walk. Although I'd rather not have to tap into it, we do have enough cash to pay the bills for a while and pay my tuition and books. It's not the way I'd like to go, but we could do it.

I do try to end on a positive note on occasion.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Death on a Stick

I always new that surfers were never quite right in the head. This video proves it.

Ye flippin' gods.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It Ain't No Darth Vader Toaster...

but I still want one. A plug-in hybrid scooter that gets 141 mpg and comes with a hot chick and a puppy. (Sorry. Two obscure musical references in two days. That probably exceeds some sort of quota.)

Those Wacky Japanese

Sorry, but this just cracked me up.

Yea, yea; I know this could help reduce stress injuries in manufacturing and probably has applications for the elderly and mildly handicapped, but it still looks like a giant sex toy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Phoenix Is Dead

The Phoenix lander is officially dead. But we can now say that we have touched (albeit remotely; very remotely) water on Mars.

Big Random Post

The cafe was actually a little busy today. I even did something other than set up and tear down my work station, wash dishes, and stand around with my thumb up my butt. Wow. Business still dies a couple hours before close, but if we can make the rest of the day consistent, then I think we will be OK. Maybe.

At least I don't work for (or draw a pension from) GM. The stock hit a 60-year low at around $3 a share. That's not a typo. GM, which since I've been old enough to read the stock page in the newspaper has traded $50, $60, $70 a share with spikes over $100 is now at $3. And according to Deutsche Bank's Rod Lache, the stock is still over-valued. It's actual worth is $0. But never fear! That's what we have suckers... er... taxpayers for! Bailing out companies that can't figure out how to make products that people want to buy!

In other news, internet DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks are growing in their volume and sophistication. We're not talking about bored college kids anymore. These are government-sponsored attacks. I realized after reading the article that is has been a while since I ran Shields Up!, which does a very thorough job of checking for cracks in your defenses. It found none, which I believe is the first time I've ever had that happen with a Windows PC. I don't believe for a second that Microsoft has magically plugged every security hole, but rather that my cable company did an excellent job with the default firewall settings on the cable modem.

Obama plans to start converting us over to socialism with a bang. The nice part about falling out of the middle class is that we won't be funding it directly (just indirectly through reduced employment, lower wages and higher prices). On a side note, I would think Obama would prefer to avoid metaphores employing words like "bang." And off the side of the side note (with most humble apologies to Arlo Guthrie), we have Fred Reed's thoughts on Obama, blowing up weddings, the economy, and more.

Good news. The sun appears to be starting the next solar cycle. That's probably a good thing. If Uncle Al and Friends think global warming is a problem, try an ice age. Even a mild one will convince you that cold is a much bigger problem than warm.

Still not depressed enough to quit reading this? Yahoo! Finance has a new feature called Tech Ticker. In spite of the name, probably fewer than one-in-five of the video shorts deal with technology companies. Anyway, just click on the link. The latest video will start automatically, then the next previous, etc. in typical backwards blog order. Just sit back and let 'em run. It's a very interesting experience. Makes you want to just run out and start buying stuff.

Feh. I don't think Santa will be coming to North America this year.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Black Swan

Just finished up Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan. The copyright date is 2007, meaning he was writing it in probably 2005 and 2006. In the book, he takes issue with how "risk" is calculated by banks and Wall Street types and warns of catastrophe if we don't take a serious look at how we think about such things. The footnote on page 225 says:
As if we did not have enough problems, banks are now more vulnerable to the Black Swan and the ludic fallacy than ever before with "scientists" among their staff taking care of exposures. The giant firm J. P. Morgan put the entire world at risk by introducing in the nineties Risk Metrics, a phony method aiming at managing people's risks, causing the generalized use of the ludic fallacy, and bringing Dr. Johns into power in place of the skeptical Fat Tonys. (A related method called "Value-at-Risk", which relies on the quantitative measurement of risk, has been spreading.) Likewise, the government-sponsored institution Fanny Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: their large staff of scientists deemed these events "unlikely."

(The ludic fallacy simply refers to people trying to use the restrictive world of games and dice to make predictions in the real world. Fat Tony and Dr. John were two acquaintances of Taleb's that he uses to illustrate the street-smart vs. the overly-intellectual approach to life.)

This is likely one of those times that Taleb wishes he was wrong. And remember, every time you see some Wall Street type crying about how they "didn't know" and their "models all said..." that they could have known and that they had been told that their models were crap. The guys like Taleb that work in the trading pits have been saying for years that what we are seeing now was going to happen. That there were massive amounts of risk that lay outside all the fancy computer models being used by the researchers and managers. So don't spend a lot of time crying in your beer for any of these fools. Just like I don't feel any pity whatsoever for someone who loses their house after failing to make the very first mortgage payment. Willful ignorance has a price.

From the conclusion of the Black Swan:
I once received another piece of life-changing advice, which... I find applicable, wise, and empirically valid. My classmate in Paris, the novelist-to-be Jean-Olivier Tedesco, pronounced, as he prevented me from running to catch a subway, "I don't run for trains."

Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time , my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that's what you are seeking.

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.

Quitting a high-paying position, if it is your decision, will seem a better payoff than the utility of the money involved (this may seem crazy, but I've tried it and it works). This is the first step toward the stoic's throwing a four-letter word at fate. You have far more control over your life if you decide on your criterion by yourself.

Mother nature has given us some defense mechanisms: as in Aesop's fable, one of these is our ability to consider that the grapes we cannot (or did not) reach are sour. But an aggressively stoic prior disdain and rejection of the grapes is even more rewarding. Be aggressive; be the one to resign, if you have the guts.

It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself.

In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.

Take a week and read this book.

Friday, November 07, 2008

:-( I didn't win

We had a cruise sweepstakes going on at work that ended Oct 31sr. They announced the winners today. The grand prize was a free 7 night Celebrity cruise with airfare and a pre hotel night for two people. Second and third prizes were gas gift cards ($500 and $250). To be eligible to win you had to have at least 10 cabins sold and for the grand prize -- to have sold at least one Celebrity cruise. I qualified for the grand prize. Only 16 of us agents qualified to win the grand prize. 424 entries for the gas cards.

I am bumming ---- I didn't win anything.

But look at the bright side --- I don't have to worry about paying taxes on my "free cruise"!

Want One!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Is a Collage Stoodint

It's official. I'm back in college trying to finish up the last six classes I need for a bachelor degree. If I can work out the timing, I could be done as early as May 2009. More likely, I'll stretch it a bit and finish up sometime next fall.

Then I can be a dishwasher with a BS degree. (Yea, yea; I know. I already have a degree in BS.)

Business at the cafe has been nonexistent for three days. Tuesday we expected. Yesterday and today have been just plain painful. To make things worse, we now have a full-time dishwasher. (Don't ask me why, when there wasn't enough work for three kitchen people, that we now have four. They must cover that in one of those six classes I'll be taking next year.) Hope these guys have some cash in the bank, otherwise this will be another three-month job.

Maybe I should become a stock fund manager. I could throw darts at the stock page and do as good as anyone else, and sound more intelligent, what with my BS degree and all. I know the Wall Street guys get paid a lot of money to know what's going on, but let's get real. Stocks go up: "We expected that." Stock go down: "We expected that." Yea. Sure. If you buy that, let me introduce you to my cousin Vinny, seller of Genuine Fake Watches. And the US stock markets drop $1.2 trillion dollars in two days because....


Wait for it....

Because Cisco didn't sell enough routers.

But we expected that. It's all these amateurs pushing the market around more than they should.

If anyone wants me, I'll be in my comfy recliner reading Taleb's The Black Swan.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


So it looks like we are going to do this thing. Socialism, I mean. For some reason, the average voter seems to think that a system that has never worked will work for sure this time. Who knows? Maybe it will. Given that I wash dishes for a living (and didn't vote), I probably should just shut up.

Not that there were any alternatives. McCain? I think I made my opinion of him pretty clear. Libertarian? Were they on the ballot?

Anyway, if Obama has his way, the federal government will be doing for banking, energy, and health care what they have done for NASA, who in eighteen months will be completely dependent on Russia to drag our sorry asses up to our own space station. (I realize that the real estate market is bad, but maybe we should just cut our losses and sell the place to the Chinese. We seem to have lost interest.)

And despair is still a sin.

Honestly, I don't expect to see much change for us at the macro level. For example, instead of spending hundreds a month on health care, we'll have "free" health care and hundreds more in taxes. The economy will continue to weaken, putting both of our jobs in serious jeopardy, and even if we somehow stay employed, our take home pay will continue to decline through higher taxes and inflation.

What will be different are the details: Who gets rich and who gets screwed. Really, just first part of that statement is correct. Who gets screwed will be the same people that have been getting screwed for the last half century; those who go to work every day, pay their bills on time, save money, and don't take out loans they have no intention or ability to pay back.

And despair is still a sin.

I'm going to go cheer myself up reading about black swans.

And watching the stock market "vote" on our new president.

[Update: The "vote" is in. Doesn't look good.]

Monday, November 03, 2008

Another Election Thought

Not from me. From Fred Reed. It doesn't have anything to do with McCain v. Obama:
We would do well to bear in mind the dangers of excessive military influence in national life. Professional soldiers have little in common with the rest of the country. We like to think of them as Our Boys in Uniform, the brave and the true and the patriotic, defenders of democracy, and so on. It isn’t so. The officer corps is authoritarian to the roots of its soul, has little use for democracy, and prides itself on blind obedience. Soldiers do not readily distinguish between dissent and treason. Further, they regard civil society as an unworkable anarchy of weaklings who lack the will to fight.

Something else to think about as the computer touch screen miss-registers your vote.

We watched Man of the Year last night. While the writers of that script definitely need to attend some beginner computer programming classes before they attempt to write another story featuring a "computer glitch" (for starters, no self-respecting geek would ever use the word "glitch"), I think we have a good chance of seeing some of the scenes from the movie playing out on our TV's tomorrow.

The Pre-Election Post

While you are standing in line to vote tomorrow, here's something to consider:
Optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software failed recent pre-election tests in a Michigan county, producing different tallies for the same ballots every time, the top election official in Oakland County revealed in a letter made public Monday.

Just remember: every vote counts. Just not for who you thought you were voting for.

More good news for Michigan: car sales continue to decline:
General Motors' October U.S. sales plunged 45 percent, and Ford's and Chrysler's weren't far behind, as low consumer confidence and tight credit combined to bring the industry's sales to an "unsustainably weak level" that is the worst in 25 years.

Anyone in Michigan remember a little town called "Flint"? Is it still there? Will it be in ten years? (Anyone seen Leetsville recently? Last time I drove down 131, someone seemed to have misplaced it.)

Two items of good news so I can wrap this up on a positive note. (And you all know that I make of point of doing that with every post....)

In a effort to reduce "wrap rage (and the 6,500 ER visits every year for "wrap related injuries")," Amazon is working with manufacturers to knock off the shoplift-proof packaging on stuff being bought over the internet. And a fungus has been found that turns wood into diesel fuel. Not that anything will come of it. Better to pour our blood and treasure into the sands of Iraq and burn food in our cars.

Now everyone remember to get out there and vote tomorrow. I won't be, but you must! Civilization is at stake! The survival of the human race! America's place in history! It all depends on YOU!

See? Positive and motivational! I should write a book.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Summing Up the Financial Crisis

Pretty much covers it.

Two Years

It's official --- two years ago today we were in Arizona.

I checked my diary -- 1Nov we crossed into Arizona and stayed the night in Flagstaff. 2Nov was our first glimpse of Arcosanti around noon. My comments from the diary are: "smaller than pictured (from website) dirtier than imagined -- yes, I know "still a construction area" -- but still! I still remember when we were slowly driving down the dirt road leading into it and our first sight, both of us looked at each other and said this is it?! where is the rest of it?

Oh well --- it was an experience -- one we can look back to and chuckle over. I was happy to meet some of the people we did while there. I'm sorry Arcosanti seems to "run out" the good people. If they had a good core of the right people there, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

The best part of the experience was getting together with my husband again. Moved away from Michigan and family -- he is a different person. I'm glad I was stubborn and did not give up on him and write him out of my life when he moved out. Thanks again to all the support I received from family and friends during that time.

Only Four More Days

In four days, people will finally shut up. At least about McCain and Obama. But with those two out of the picture, the yapping will be much more diffused, covering all the various topics that people yap about. About the only good thing that comes from presidential elections is the stock market bounce that nearly always precedes them. Not that it will hold, but it does give everyone a break.

The good news from October is, of course, the 55% decline in oil prices. The reason for the decline isn't good news, but the resulting drop in gas prices and the easing of upward pressure on prices certainly is. Like the stock bounce, this isn't a permanent thing, but a nice break all the same.

And guess who's coming for dinner on Monday. Mr. "I wanna be Barry Goldwater" himself will be here to camp on the courthouse steps in direct imitation of the biggest fail in American politics. Good luck with that, John Boy. The bright spot is that the cafe will probably have a busy Monday. Probably. Maybe.

The walk home was grim. I passed a full block of empty retail spaces that were businesses a mere two months ago. The last one standing was liquidating their inventory today. Since we moved here, the section of our street from our apartment to downtown has had a revival of sorts with a lot of renovation and such. The cafe was just one of many such projects along a three-block stretch that had become somewhat neglected. Now it's starting to look neglected again.

And just to make sure I jump around as much as possible in this post (as well as join the campaign yappers I was just griping about), here is a positive article for you to take to the polls with you on Tuesday about how presidents and Congress simply ignore the constitution pretty much all the time. Money quote:
In virtually every generation and during virtually every presidency (Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland are exceptions that come to mind) the popular branches of government have expanded their power. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the size of your toilet tank, the water pressure in your shower, the words you can speak under oath and in private, how your physician treats your illness, what your children study in grade school, how fast you can drive your car, and what you can drink before you drive it are all regulated by federal law. Congress has enacted over 4,000 federal crimes and written or authorized over one million pages of laws and regulations. Worse, we are expected by law to understand all of it.

But this time we all know that we stand at the crossroads of history. Because, you know, the New York Times keeps telling us that. Just like the last presidential election. And the one before that. And the one before that, and the one before that, and....